OSWEGO — Plastic bottles and tissue paper combine with photography and sculpture to explore the Gospel of Mark in a unique art exhibit that opened March 14 at the Oswego Arts Center.
“A Walk Through the Gospel of St. Mark” is composed of 19 collaborative works of art that illustrate key stories from the Gospel. The artists are some 100 faith formation students, ranging from
preschoolers to tenth graders, from the parishes of the diocese’s Northern Region.
The exhibit was inspired by a visio divina workshop last year, St. Paul’s Faith Formation Associate and exhibit curator Diane Zeller explained. Latin for “divine seeing,” visio divina is method of contemplative prayer aided by art; Zeller’s workshop used illuminated scripture.
“I was just very taken with the stories and how everybody who saw and interpreted them got something very different out of it,” she said. That experience got her thinking.
Zeller pitched the idea of a collaborative art project based on this liturgical year’s Gospel to her fellow directors of faith formation, who were happy to get their students involved. She provided the list of Gospel stories from which to choose, but left the selection of participants up to the directors and the selection of the media up to the artists.
The result is a wide array of art, ranging from literal paintings to interpretive installations, playful collages to moody photography.
Particularly eye-catching is a piece by first year Confirmation students from St. Paul’s: a large wooden cross, filled with empty plastic bottles and cups, representing “The Death of Our Lord.” “The cross symbolizes love and eternal life through Jesus,” a placard inside the cross reads. “We are recycled to a new and everlasting life because Jesus died on the cross for us.”
The exhibit is more than just a teaching exercise, Zeller noted.
“We wanted first and foremost to teach our children the Gospel in a way that they could hear and understand and remember — and that’s what this does, it walks you all the way consecutively through the Gospel,” she said. “And because they [students] are coming with their parents, it’s a chance to re-catechize the parents. And it’s also a way of opening up what we do to the community, so it’s evangelization.”
After its two-weekend run at the Oswego Arts Center, the exhibit will move to the Church of the Holy Trinity in Fulton; Zeller hopes other parishes will be interested in hosting it as well. Plans are already underway for next year’s exhibit, which will focus on the Gospel of Luke.
And before the exhibit even opened last weekend, Zeller declared the endeavor a success. “It got the kids to engage with their families and their peers and talk about the different stories,” she said. “It’s a little bit visio divina, a little bit Gospel of Mark, it’s community building — it’s everything that we want people to know about who we are.”
“A Walk Through the Gospel of St. Mark” is on display at the Oswego Arts Center at Fort Ontario March 21 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and March 22 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit oswegoarts.org.